Between 1995 and 2005, cases brought against skilled nursing and rehabilitation facilities alleging the occurrence of nursing home abuse and neglect were at an all time high. During that time period, the elder care market in Florida was dominated by four or five large corporate chains which were all headquartered in distant states. Today, only one of those chains remains. The motto of executives passed down through the ranks was: “to be profitable, we must fill every bed, and keep every bed filled.” The focus on corporate profits almost universally translated into poor patient outcomes.
As nursing homes deliberately understaffed their facilities in order to save on labor costs, residents became increasingly vulnerable to instances of neglect and abuse. Without enough staff to properly assist the elderly and medically dependent, residents suffered falls and fractures, bed sores, untreated infections, and malnutrition in greater numbers. Good nurses and nursing assistants became fed up with working conditions and 110% annual turnover in area nursing homes became the norm as staff migrated toward better opportunities elsewhere in the health care field.
The industry responded by hiring even fewer and less experienced personnel — some with dangerous propensities and criminal backgrounds. Predictably, acts of physical and sexual abuse, deliberate over-medication, and the unlawful restraint of nursing home residents became commonplace. The state’s Agency for Healthcare Administration responded by issuing moratoriums on new admissions and even closing some facilities; however, with inadequate resources and a state law that required inspections only once every fifteen months or upon receipt of a specific complaint, AHCA represented little threat to an industry that was out to maximize its profits at whatever cost in human life and suffering.
Ultimately, as the horrors faced by one of the most vulnerable segments of our society came to public light and juries received evidence of the blatant disregard for human life by those running what amounted to human warehouses, the industry was finally held to account in courtrooms throughout Florida and justice was served.
In the wake of growing public outrage and a clear message that families would not idly stand by and accept such deplorable conditions , big chain operators eventually decided that it was cheaper to pull out of Florida than to spend the money necessary to provide proper care to the elderly in this state.
As a primary result of receiving diminishing operating revenues at a time when Medicare was also making reimbursement cutbacks, several of the large nursing home chains filed bankruptcy. Since 2005, the dust has largely settled and many better run smaller companies have purchased the former properties of the big chains, reopened them, and are generally providing a much better quality of care. With that said, egregious cases of nursing home abuse and neglect can and still do occur in Florida.
What is nursing home abuse and neglect, and how do you spot it? Nursing home abuse and neglect may occur in many forms. Here is a list of some of the symptoms of abuse and neglect: 1) Pressure sores, also known as bed sores, 2) untreated infections, 3) delays in treating illnesses, 3) unexplained injuries, including broken bones, cuts, and abrasions, 4) rapid weight loss, 5) dehydration, 6) untreated bowel impactions, 7) over-medicating to alter supervision needs, 8) failing to provide fall risk precautions leading to injury, 9) sexual, physical, or mental abuse, 10) unsanitary conditions, pests, and scabies 11) theft of personal property, and 12) improper feeding tube maintenance.
If you suspect a friend or loved one has become the victim of nursing home abuse or neglect, you should report the matter by calling the abuse hot-line at 1-(800) 96-ABUSE and speak with an attorney as soon as possible. An experienced attorney may provide you with tips and insight on how to have the resident transferred to a safer facility.